By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A feature-length documentary by Hilo filmmaker Danny Miller, “Na Kupu Mana‘olana” (“Seeds of Hope”), will have its Big Island premiere on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at the Palace Theater. The screening is part of the 2012 Hawaii International Film Festival.
The film tells the story of Hawaii’s return to local and traditional methods of producing food within the context of the state’s growing food insecurity, Miller said.
According to the film, “for over 1,000 years the Hawaiian people produced enough food to support an estimated population of one million. Today, 85 percent of our food is imported. If current trends continue, Hawaii’s last agricultural lands will be gone by 2040.”
“That’s based on the fact that in the last 50 years we’ve destroyed 50 percent of our ag land, so the next 50 years if we continue at this rate, it could all be gone,” Miller said. “I don’t think that’s gonna happen, but there definitely has to be a major shift to slow that down, because so much of the ag land is being turned into development and not being used for growing food.
“Oahu is in a really bad predicament because of the major population there with more than a million people. And the ag land is continually being used for development. If we continue developing the land, there won’t be any left for growing food.”
The film, which was conceived when Miller was a board member of the nonprofit organization Hawaii Rural Development Council, features “stories that are inspiring about farmers and educators who are making a difference,” Miller said.
A number of the featured farmers and educators are here on the Big Island, including Ed Boteilho of Cloverleaf Dairy.
“It’s remarkable how he’s fought to save his dairy over the years,” Miller said. “One farmer and his family have had to put everything on the line just to keep their farm going, mainly because of unfair trade practices. It’s not a level playing field. His is only one of two large commercial dairies left in the state.”
In addition, Kahua Ranch patriarch Monty Richards relates what Miller calls “a great story about the importance of keeping cattle here instead of shipping them to the mainland.”
Also featured are Richard Ha of Hamakua Springs Country Farms, Nancy Redfeather of the School Garden Network and Mike DuPonte, a livestock extension agent in Hilo for the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
“He brought back techniques from South Korea that make livestock farming really clean and brought back technology from Korea so you can turn livestock waste, farm waste and human waste into livestock food,” Miller said. “Right here, in Kurtistown, we have a hog farm using these cutting-edge techniques for natural farming.”
Perhaps the most inspiring story, however is that of Uncle Keoni Turalde.
“He has physical limitations due to a diving accident and he’s in a wheelchair. But still, he’s turned land in Keaukaha that had been abused into an incredible education center for the youth, using traditional methods to grow taro and other food,” Miller said.
Miller also praised the work of so many Hawaiian organizations and charter schools that are restoring fish ponds and (taro) lo‘i to educate young people to actually create food sources for their communities,” and concluded that a moratorium is necessary “on developing and destroying ag land.”
“I think it should be used for growing food in a sustainable way, so it can be really productive. And education is the other key. We have to start educating our youth to be farmers and getting them inspired about growing food for our population,” he said.
Renowned Hawaii rocker Jack Johnson contributed music to the project and narrator Puanani Burgess also donated her time and talent. Miller said the film was funded by the Hawaii Rural Development Council, Hawaii Community Foundation Pikake Grant, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Pohaku Fund, Kosasa Family Fund under Hawaii Community Foundation and Sidney E Frank Foundation.
“We set out to make a film that would inspire audiences to become aware of the issues and how important it is that we end this addiction on imports and begin growing our own food — our own healthy food that’s organic, that’s sustainable,” he said. “One of the problems we’re facing here is the large numbers of people with diabetes, and really, it’s because they don’t have access to healthy food. So if we can grow more of it here, it will be cheaper and more accessible. In the film, we show people who are out there doing that — and it is possible.”
For tickets, visit www.hiff.org.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.